Torch Lake Memories: Beth Dunham

Posted on July 7, 2008


If you feel the pull of northern lakes, you already know.  If you don’t, perhaps nothing I say here will help you understand how “Torch Lake” and “summer vacation” can become synonymous – how the memories of days at the family cottage can linger, brighter by far than any others.  Correspondent Beth Dunham has been giving some thought to these matters.  Excerpts from her memoirs-in-progress will appear in TLV, as unpredictably as puffy clouds and falling stars, beginning right now.  We join Beth as she describes her family’s attachment to Torch Lake:

Just ask anyone who’s been transplanted into our family. To a one, each feels initially, sometimes permanently, overwhelmed by the strength of family feelings about our summers there. “You’d think it cures cancer!” my most recent stepfather once scoffed. I know my ex-husband never grew to understand it, even after seeing our old cottage and visiting with the new owners.

But really, I think, looking back, it’s quite simple. At Torch Lake, we were happy. We are happy. The lake does not cure cancer. It doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. Yes, it does rain there. It can be miserably humid. It can be so cold in July that the icy lake water feels warm. My family didn’t stop being dysfunctional there.

But its sunsets can’t be rivaled, not on the remotest tropical island, not in the mountains. Summer days are never finer than those we spent sprawled across warm inner tubes on the dock, warm rubber warming water-chilled flesh, lulled into an afternoon nap by the sound of the waves on the pebbled shoreline. And nothing, nothing, can match a Torch Lake Day – windy, waves choppy, achingly deep-blue sky and brilliant sunlight sparkling on the Caribbean blues.

Waking and sleeping, I always know the lake is there, even across hundreds of miles and hours of driving, if I need it. The permanence of its presence, and the hundreds of Torch Lake days (joyful and miserable) that are stored in my soul provide the peace I need on life’s most troubled days.

My wish for you, as you share my Torch Lake memories, is that you will remember – or make – your own Torch Lake Days.